Making a Difference through Inclusion, SDGs, and Open Government

New features of the OGP Action Plan in Ukraine

According to Freedom House’s latest Freedom World report, Ukraine is considered a partly free democracy. While the level of trust in government institutions is 28.2% as of 2018, 45% of people consider civil society organizations trustworthy. The Open Government Partnership is a platform helping both government and civil society to come together and improve governance by empowering citizens, fighting corruption, and harnessing new technologies.

In late 2018, the Ukrainian government, in partnership with civil society, submitted their 2018-2020 OGP action plan following wide-scale consultations with the enhanced engagement of local civil society organizations. Importantly, this plan represented the first time the OGP co-creation process was aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Ukraine.

It is quite difficult to go beyond the “usual suspects” among OGP civil society partners. There are not that many civil society organizations ready to generate the ideas of innovative commitments for the action plan and share the responsibility for their implementation. Usually, these are all based in the capital city. This year we tried to change this situation and engaged the network of fifteen civil society hubs – local leader organizations working on democratization and human rights in the regions of Ukraine.

Together with the members of OGP Coordination Council and other participants, these civil society hubs joined public events held in Kyiv to bring the voices of their communities to the discussion and contribute to the new commitments. Ten of them also conducted twenty public events in their cities and reached out to almost 60,000 citizens through traditional and social media. In addition, over 800 citizens were directly engaged in the consultations process, and 257 civil society representatives chose their preferred commitments through the discuto.io online voting portal arranged by the Secretariat of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine.

In 2018, Ukraine pushed to align the OGP best practices with the global SDGs. In a series of gatherings during the co-creation process, participants selected issues like peace, justice and strong institutions; sustainable cities and communities; quality education; decent work and economic growth; industry, innovation and infrastructure (namely SDGs 16, 11, 4, 8 and 9) as priority goals for OGP commitments. Now, Ukraine has commitments focused on opening the National Repository of Academic Texts (SDG 4), ensuring free access for citizens to environmental information (SDG 11), implementing  the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative and the Transparency Construction Initiative online (SDG 9), and creating an online platform for cooperation between civil society and the state (SDG 16).

Civil society organizations will be watchdogs, keeping close eyes on the implementation of the latest OGP action plan, while government institutions will partner to implement the commitments. With the renewed OGP coordination council providing a platform to discuss the progress, next steps and challenges, the parties look forward to two years of intense work on the action plan implementation.

The OGP co-creation process: lessons learned

1.     The Ukrainian co-creation process reveals a strong potential to go beyond the central level. Relying on the existing local civil society networks allows reaching out to the citizens at large and inspiring dialogue with their authorities on more open and transparent governance at the local and regional levels.

2.     Although the Open Government Partnership was originally designed as a national level initiative, independent initiatives aligned with the national action plan emerge at the local level, inspired by OGP commitments. Projects like "Available Medicine", which checks availability of the medicines in regional hospitals, or the information portal "Build ProZorro" which stores information about all constructions to be built with the local budget funding, are only a few of many local initiatives in line with OGP values.

3.     Granting SDGs their rightful place as an integral part of the co-creation process uplifts national OGP commitments to the global level. As a whole, the new action plan’s commitments reinforce Agenda 2030 by improving the efficiency and transparency of democratic governance in Ukraine.

Past successes, new challenges and a way forward

Since Ukraine joined OGP in 2011, the Government and civil society partners have developed and implemented three biennial action plans. The first OGP Ukraine action plan for 2012-2013 was implemented by 90%, and the second one for 2014-2015 – by 83%. These previous action plans led to transformative reforms in Ukraine. ProZorro, the national e-procurement platform; the adoption of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative standards, which verifies information about final beneficiaries; open data legislation to provide access to public information; and the e-asset declarations system are among the most renowned examples of successful initiatives developed under the OGP umbrella.

OGP has allowed civil society and the government to explore innovative ways to cooperate. But despite the inclusion of CSOs and citizens paving the way for increasingly inclusive and effective co-creation processes, there remains room for greater buy-in from the government and civil society. Currently, the realization of OGP commitments is funded either with sectoral government programs or through international technical assistance. Finding a proper budget solution for OGP can ensure its future sustainability. Finally, the strong and efficient role of the OGP Secretariat remains crucial for delivering all the stages of the co-creation process, while the renewed multi-stakeholder coordination council requires further institutional development and capacity building to be effective in ensuring success of the Open Government Partnership in Ukraine.

Authors: Victoria Pagano